There are some people who seem larger than life itself. Somehow these special individuals are able to fit more into one lifetime than many of us could in several. Sometimes it’s their zeal for life or pure genius or professional accomplishments. For Dr. Keith Flanagan, who was known as “Dr. Keith” to many, it was the way he tirelessly spent himself for others over the course of his 26 years of service in Haiti.
I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Keith. He passed away suddenly a year ago when Martha and I were new to Haiti and still meeting people. I wish I had. However we have had the joy of getting to know his wife Jan who is still in Haiti and attends our church.
Dr. Keith served in Haiti with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) which is a sister organization to World Concern. CVM sends out veterinary professionals to serve in the U.S. and beyond. Dr. Keith was a vet and was involved in everything from helping the government do vaccination campaigns to training folks in rural areas to become vet agents.
This past week marked the one year anniversary since Dr. Keith’s death. To celebrate his life, a vet clinic was organized by the other CVM missionaries in Haiti and Haitian friends who were impacted by him. Martha and I had the opportunity to travel with the group and document what we saw through photo, video, and interviews so Dr. Keith’s family and the CVM family could remember this special day.
The clinic was held in three villages surrounding the town of La Chapelle, a three hour drive from Port-au-Prince. This was an area that Dr. Keith invested in heavily during his ministry in Haiti. Around 40 people, many of them community vet agents who were trained by Dr. Keith, came and volunteered their time for the day. Three groups were formed (one for each village) and a cooler with vaccines and other medicines was given to each group.
We went out with one of the three groups and met all kinds of people who knew Dr. Keith. One elderly man we met named Julien is a vet agent and was trained by Dr. Keith in 1990. He remembered three separate trainings, each nine days long, that Dr. Keith gave on taking care of pigs, cattle and horses. Julien still earns an income from his work as a vet agent, giving vaccines and doing castrations.
It was really surreal to run into this man named Julien in a tiny village in rural Haiti and hear him say that because of Dr. Keith’s investment in him over 20 years ago, he’s still able to care for his animals and provide for his family by taking care of others’. After speaking to a number of people like Julien throughout the day, it was clear that Dr. Keith had a significant impact on many people’s lives.
Dr. Keith was obviously a skilled veterinarian and a true professional. It’s also obvious that he took genuine interest in people and sincerely loved them like Jesus would, whatever their story or background. Both his skill and heart for others made him an effective vessel for Christ in Haiti for many years.
Here’s a short overview video Martha made of our day in La Chapelle.